A reader e-mailed me after he received last month’s issue of Contractor magazine, Supply House Times’ sister publication. He wanted to know why I had felt it necessary to run a story about the shootings in August at a Ferguson Enterprises branch in Alabama on the front page of that newsmagazine.

He probably had similar questions about why we had run the story in Supply House Times because he told me that no one outside Ferguson and the small town where the incidents occurred really needed to know what had happened. He wondered whether we had put the story where we did to sell more magazines. Or, he suggested, “Maybe the story was supposed to be a wakeup call for all of your readers to get them to do a thorough psychological screening of their employees, especially their truck drivers.”

My response was basically this: Ferguson is one of the largest plumbing and HVAC wholesalers in the country. Most of its customers are plumbing and heating contractors, who read Contractor. In my judgment, it was important to let our readers know what is happening in our industry, even when the news includes tragic acts of senseless violence. Our purpose in running the story in both magazines was simply that.

We didn’t sell more copies of the magazine because our readership does not fluctuate from issue to issue. The circulation for both Supply House Times and Contractor is by subscription only, and we do not have any newsstand sales. In answer to his final point, I let him know that we planned to run a follow-up to the story this month in both magazines to inform readers that steps can be taken to try to prevent such violence. Employment screenings are an important part of the process.

The growing concern about workplace violence puts wholesalers in a peculiar situation. In an extraordinarily tight job market, the temptation is great to hire just about anyone to meet the workload.

Yet, wholesalers must screen prospective employees just as carefully as owners of other types of companies do. For workers on the job, wholesalers must communicate clearly stated policies on employee conduct. They also have to offer employee-assistance programs to head off problems before employees reach the breaking point.

As the recent incidents in Alabama point out, our industry is not immune to the senseless violence that is occurring with disturbing frequency around the country. While such crime seems to be almost inevitable these days, wholesalers must take steps to try to prevent further tragedy from happening to their employees.